John Carney is the Irish-born song-writer/director behind the musical film and play Once. Now he has returned to the big screen to bring us another musical romantic-comedy drama Begin Again. While he originally filmed Once in three weeks with a 100,000 euro budget, this time he has splurged on high-profile talent, probably in a bid to pull mainstream audiences.
It seems to have paid off. Kiera Knightley and Mark Ruffalo bring genuine emotion and relatability to their roles of Gretta, a women who has split with her long-term but newly famous boyfriend, and Dan, a label executive who has been disillusioned and abandoned by the industry and betrayed by his wife. When they happen upon each other they each find something they needed. Gretta finds someone who believes in her talent, and Dan finds his long-lost inspiration.
The movie also cast James Cordon as Gretta's busking best friend, who gave the role his usual warmth and humour. Additionally the freakishly talented Adam Levine (AKA the frontman of Maroon Five) had his acting debut as Gretta's rock star boyfriend. His performance was at home amongst his A-list co-stars and his rendition of 'Lost Stars' was the standout piece of the film.
Begin Again contains obvious criticism of the state of the music industry and perhaps follows an idealistically organic view of the nature of song production and recording. However, it was filled with passion, well-developed characters, and good music. The film also avoided the usual romantic clichés. As with Once, the audience may not get exactly what they would want, but there is realism to John Carney's relationships. All in all, Begin Again is a enjoyable film about music, love, finding your dreams, and making them happen.